Episode 110: Writing Dialogue and Character

Shanthi Sekaran, Connie Hale

Want to take your writing to the next level? Today’s episode is the first of two special podcasts about a new series of books from the Writers Grotto called Lit Starts, available starting September 10, 2019. Each book is filled with prompts to help writers practice the craft of writing character, dialogue, action, and humor. Each book also features a foreword by a Grotto writer. Today’s podcast is devoted to a conversation between two of those writers, Shanthi Sekaran, who wrote the foreword to Writing Dialogue, and Constance Hale, who wrote the foreword to Writing Character. Sekaran’s most recent novel, Lucky Boy, was named an IndieNext Great Read and an NPR Best Book of 2017. Hale is the author of four cheeky writing manuals, a book for adults on hula, and a picture book for children set in Hawai’i.

Episode 109: Joshua Furst on Writing the Counterculture

Joshua Furst

Joshua Furst is an aficionado of American counterculture. His 2008 novel, The Sabotage Cafe, was a story of then-and-now punks defining themselves in opposition to the mainstream: dumpster-divers living in the shadow of American consumerism. His new novel, Revolutionaries, out now from Knopf, explores the life, legacy, and activism of an Abbie Hoffman-like figure, Lenny Snyder, as told by his disillusioned son, Freedom. Revolutionaries is populated with recognizable figures, both imagined and real. Lenny’s allies include folk singer and icon Phil Ochs and famed radical attorney William Kunstler. And yet at the core of Furst’s books is a fascination with family, dependency, and mental illness, subjects that he explores with great complexity and intimacy. Furst joined us in the GrottoPod on August 13 to discuss his new book, his teaching, and what messages the political upheavals of the sixties might have for us today.

Episode 102: Jamie Ford on the Value of MFAs

Award-winning author Jamie Ford joins co-hosts emeritus Larry and BQ for the second of two live podcasts recorded at the 2019 Storyfort Festival in Boise, Idaho. Their conversation with the Montana writer touches on the Ford family’s experiences in the American West, Ford’s journey from comic book-reading “artsy kid” to best-selling author, the value of an MFA versus life experience, and the extensive research and writing that produced his recent novel, Love and Other Consolation Prizes, as well as his award-winning debut, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

Episode 101: Tara Conklin Live At Storyfort

Tara Conklin author

New York Times best-selling author Tara Conklin is our guest this week as she joins co-hosts emeritus Larry and BQ onstage at the Storyfort Festival in Boise, Idaho. Conklin talks craft, vision and work habits and shares tales of her mid-career switch from law to fiction writing. Her first novel, The House Girl, grew out of a short story, and her latest book, The Last Romantics, zoomed to the top of the Amazon.com fiction rankings when it was chosen by Jenna Bush Hager as her pick to kick off the TODAY Show Book Club.

Episode 99: Goodbye, Hello! Tom Barbash on ‘The Dakota Winters’

Tom Barbash & Laura Fraser
Tom Barbash (center) with Paul Harding and Laura Fraser.

“Where were you when you heard John Lennon was killed?” It’s a familiar question to people of a certain age, but Gen-Xers will not be the only ones fascinated by Tom Barbash’s early-’80s New York City flashback, The Dakota WintersWith veteran journalist and memoirist Laura Fraser as guest host, GrottoPod Episode 99 finds Barbash talking about his childhood in NYC’s Upper West Side and the process behind turning the biggest names of the late 19th century into his novel’s central players. “I wanted to say something new and true about John,” says Barbash. “I had to not just look at the glamour but look at … strengths and failings.” Note: Mature content.

Episode 97: Rachel Howard’s Big ‘Risk’

Rachel Howard.
Rachel Howard.

Rachel Howard was a Clovis High School flag-team member when an essay contest changed her life, putting her on a path whose latest milepost is the publication of her first novel, The Risk of Us, which will be available everywhere April 9. This week, Rachel joins The GrottoPod to talk about the inspiration for her new book, her unlikely path into the arts, how she’s helped create a writing community in the Sierra foothills and why you’re likely to hear torch songs at her book-launch party.

“I still feel that devastation is always just around the corner for writers.”

Episode 95: Cheryl A. Ossola On Writing Motherhood

Cheryl A. Ossola
Cheryl A. Ossola

Writer Cheryl A. Ossola waited a long time to realize her dream. It finally came true in 2018, when the one-time theater electrician, photographer, neonatal nurse and dance-magazine editor landed in Italy to put the finishing touches on her first novel, The Wild Impossibility, out May 9. This week, the GrottoPod is lucky enough to corral Ossola during a visit to the U.S. to discuss how a lifetime of experience can produce a lush, heart-breaking novel that author Katie Crouch calls “a breathtaking novel about what it means to be a mother.”

“I would just like somebody to say this book mattered.”

Episode 93: Thaisa Frank On Writing, Zen and Therapy

Thaisa Frank

Thaisa Frank

Thaisa Frank, author of the novel Heidegger’s Glasses, four books of short stories and Finding Your Writer’s Voice, joins the GrottoPod this week for a delightful trip through the life of a “writer’s writer,” former therapist, Zen practitioner, women’s rights activist and teacher of writing (who doesn’t believe writing can be taught). Join Thaisa, BQ and Larry for a topsy-turvy journey that eventually lands at the Grotto and in the GrottoPod, where the winner of two PEN awards completely charms your hosts. This is a can’t-miss episode. After this, we’re taking a holiday break — we’ll be back Jan. 8.

“You know what I teach? That (writing) can’t be taught. And how to deconstruct all of those rules, and how to find a way to talk to yourself in writing.”

Episode 90: Jaya Padmanabhan On Writing Displacement

Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya Padmanabhan entered boarding school when she was four, and has been a sales rep, a software engineer and now a fiction writer, journalist and editor. This week the Examiner columnist and author of the short-story collection Transactions of Belonging joins Larry and guest co-host Laurie Ann Doyle to trace her path, talk about how readers respond to “ambiguous” endings, a lifelong interest in displacement and belonging, her novel-in-progress … and toddy tappers.

“Writing is a reflex action that comes out of reading, at least for me.”

7:12: Writing across a “broad spectrum”
13:12: “The epiphany,” and learning to write short stories
20:55: Her favorite stories, and how readers responded to “His Curls”
29:48: The roots of a lifelong interest in displacement and belonging
41:30: Entering the world of journalism
49:48: New projects, toddy tappers

Episode 88: BQ and Larry On Motivation’s Fickle Fortunes

BQ and Larry

BQ and Larry

Larry and BQ dig deep this week in an episode that checks in on both of their writing projects, probes the fickle fortunes of motivation, explores the ups and downs of networking with other writers and much more. 

“The process from book deal to book is the opposite of Dante’s Divine Comedy. You start out in parades, and you end up in Hell.”

1:40: Larry has an idea for a new podcast.
6:48: Are you comfortable telling someone, “this is the best book (movie, TV show, etc.) ever?”
11:54: What’s happening with BQ’s new book.
20:00: Larry’s latest attempt at a new book.
26:44: How do you get motivated?
41:42: BQ talks about the perils of networking.
53:20: Keeping Larry accountable while he’s in Switzerland.